EU tip for U.S.-Cuba negotiators: patience is a virtue
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD MWHITEFIELD@MIAMIHERALD.COM
02/11/2015 7:00 AM 02/11/2015 7:17 PM
The United States isn’t the only country in negotiations with Cuba. The
European Union also has opened a dialogue and hopes to forge a political
and cooperation agreement with the island by the end of the year.
Christian Leffler, chief European negotiator at the EU-Cuba talks, has a
bit of advice for his American counterparts as they work to reestablish
diplomatic ties with Cuba and work toward normalization: “Have a clear
vision, steady nerves and tons of patience.”
“We have no illusions there will be a sudden radical transformation of
Cuban society and government structures,” Leffler said in a conference
call from Brussels on Wednesday that was facilitated by the
Washington-based Atlantic Council.
Leffler was joined on the call by Arnaldo Abruzzini, secretary general
of Eurochambres, one of the most influential associations of chambers of
commerce in Europe.
Last April, the EU opened negotiations with Cuba with the goal of
setting up a framework for engagement, which it hopes will support
ongoing reforms and development on the island. Among the EU’s goals are
promoting governance reform, respect for human rights, encouraging
economic reform and supporting development and modernization.
EU members have chosen engagement as the best way to realize such
objectives and to widen the space for public debate and dialogue in
Cuba, said Leffler, the EU’s Americas director.
While the EU can share experiences and encourage Cuba to undertake steps
it thinks might be helpful, he said, “We can’t tell them what to do.”
Rather than negotiating change with Cuba, Abruzzini said the EU is
negotiating a framework in support of change.
In December, the United States unveiled a new policy of engagement with
Cuba that included support for the Cuban people through more commercial
ties with private entrepreneurs and expanded travel to the island by
Federica Mogherini, EU high representative for foreign affairs, likened
the policy breakthrough to another Wall falling and said the new
U.S.-Cuba relationship represented “a victory of dialogue over
“The U.S. policy is now much more similar to what we have been
pursuing,” said Leffler. “We’re in a stronger position to work together
to achieve these objectives.”
During congressional testimony last week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of
State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson said the new
policy had increased the number of countries willing to work with the
United States in promoting change and respect for human rights in Cuba.
“We were alone,” she said. “We’re more effective with allies.”
Abruzzini said EU members see market potential in Cuba since two-thirds
of EU members have populations that are similar to or less than Cuba’s.
Still, he said, Cuba represents less than .1 percent of EU foreign trade
and European companies are reluctant to put forth significant resources
in opening the Cuban market. But he said Cuba is still important in
terms of a normalization process that can benefit its citizens.
Last year, Cuba updated its foreign investment law and announced 246
projects worth $8.7 billion that are open to foreign investors. The
government hopes to attract as much as $2.5 billion annually in foreign
investment but its plans have gotten off to a slow start.
Abruzzini said there needs to be a clear legal framework for potential
investors. He said the new investment law doesn’t go as far as potential
European investors would have liked. “We hope there will be some
adjustments in the future,” he said.
The Cuban government also emphasizes that investors in the special
economic zone in Mariel would get fast-track treatment for approvals.
But Abruzzini said, “We need much more than that” for companies to invest.
If the pace of economic reforms in Cuba accelerates, he said,
“businesses will be more motivated to go in and invest.”
Source: EU tip for U.S.-Cuba negotiators: patience is a virtue | The
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